History of the World, Part 1 (1981) – Mel Brooks (Friday’s Finest)

Moses: The Lord, the Lord Jehovah has given unto you these fifteen…
[drops one of the tablets]
Moses: Oy! Ten! Ten commandments for all to obey!

History of the World, Part 1 is the third Mel Brooks film to appear here at Friday’s Finest. It is not a particularly good film, but it is presented here for sentimental reasons since I watched it so often in my youth and there are loads of funny gags in the film (many seen in the video below). I agree with Roger Ebert’s description (that overall): ‘It’s rambling and undisciplined‘ and Jonathan Rosenbaum who championed the film as a guilty pleasure, writing that “the wonderful stuff is so funny that it makes most of the awful stuff tolerable.’

IMDB Storyline: From the dawn of man to the distant future, mankind’s evolution (or lack thereof) is traced. Often ridiculous but never serious, we learn the truth behind the Roman Emperor, we learn what really happened at the Last Supper, the circumstances that surrounded the French Revolution, how to test eunuchs, and what kind of shoes the Spanish Inquisitor wore.

Divided in six segments (“The Stone Age”; “The Old Testament”; “The Roman Empire”; “The Spanish Inquisition”; “The French Revolution”; and “Previews of Coming Attractions”), “History of the World: Part I” is an uneven parody of historical moments, but still worthwhile watching. Brooks plays 5 characters in this ranging from Moses to King Louis XVI and it features a large ensemble cast and Orsen Welles narrates each story. I doubt this film could be made these days because it contains such vulgar and polemical material. Despite carrying the title Part I, there were originally no plans for a sequel, but the streaming service Hulu announced that it ordered a sequel variety series titled History of the World, Part II, with production planned to begin in Spring 2022.

Despite the strong ticket sales after its opening, poor word of mouth impacted its box office. Although it grossed $31.7 million (10 million budget), it was considered a commercial disappointment because the film had been “tracking” well and Brooks’ previous films had been so successful.

Interesting Trivia:
* Beforehand, it was agreed that Orson Welles would receive $5,000 per day in exchange for his services. Figuring that he’d have to spend five eight-hour days recording and re-recording these lines with Welles, Mel Brooks paid him $25,000 up front. But by noon on the first day, Welles had recorded his lines to perfection. “Oh, my god, I could’ve paid you $5,000”, Brooks lamented. After kicking himself for a few minutes, the funnyman asked Welles how he planned to spend the bounty. “Cuban cigars and Sevruga caviar”, Welles replied.
* In The Old Testament segment, the writing on the tablets are the correct two word Hebrew version of the commandments: Don’t kill, Don’t steal, Don’t lie, et cetera. The five more Don’ts on the third tablet that Moses accidentally drops, are: Don’t impregnate, Don’t laugh, Don’t buy, and the last one: Don’t break.

Presented below is the video – History of the World – Best Scenes.

1. History of the World, Part 1 – wikipedia
2. IMDB – History of the World, Part 1

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Movies and TV
5 comments on “History of the World, Part 1 (1981) – Mel Brooks (Friday’s Finest)
  1. Definitely not a great movie, but so many wonderful, quotable bits.

  2. My girl-crush love affair for Madeline Kahn began in this movie. She observing the parading Romans was hysterical. “And you, and you, and you…”

    • Madeline is a wonderful comic actress. I loved her also in Brook”s High Anxiety and Young Frankenstein. I can’t remember those scenes you mentioned. Time to rewatch it. Thanks for commenting Cindy.

  3. Mel Brooks was/is a comic genius.

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